Car thief last of 12 caught in gang sending stolen vehicles to Poland

Bartosz Dolata.
Bartosz Dolata.

A man has been sentenced to 16 months in prison and is the last of 12 caught in a police operation going back six years.

Bartosz Dolata, 29, a Polish national, had been moving stolen vehicles across to Poland as part of an organised crime unit stealing high value cars across three counties, including Bedfordshire.

He had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Luton Crown Court to transferring criminal property under the Proceeds of Crime Act and was sentenced on Thursday, June 19.

Operation Pleat was set up as a joint initiative between the Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire forces following burglaries across South and Mid Bedfordshire and central and western Hertfordshire.

The series under investigation related to property worth more than £1.5 million.

It first hit the headlines in January 2009 when more than 100 officers from all three forces descended on addresses in the Luton, Wellingborough and Northampton areas where they arrested 11 men and women and recovered a substantial quantity of suspected stolen property.

The organised crime group concentrated on breaking into houses while the owners were asleep and stealing the high value cars parked outside by just taking the keys and driving


BMWs and Mercedes were among the most popular brands stolen and believed to have been exported for sale in Poland.

Eleven other people were eventually jailed for their part in the conspiracy and Dolata was the last outstanding offender.

Bedfordshire detectives used a European Arrest Warrant to alert other countries to his crimes, and eventually he was caught in Germany in February this year – nearly five years after the warrant was first issued.

Det Insp Rob Regan, who worked on the case from the start, said he was pleased to have put the last person behind bars.

“This group were very well-organised, stealing hundreds of cars for export and responsible for inflicting a lot of financial damage on people as they went. It’s been a long and complex investigation but shows the use of the European Arrest Warrant and the consequences of your crime will follow you even if you flee the country.”